The History of a Mouthful of Bread - And its effect on the organization of men and animals
by Jean Mace
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It is for this reason that the bark of old trunks of trees is so deeply furrowed, and that the dry scales may be picked off the surface without the slightest injury to the tree. It is part of the original bark, dead long ago. The old wood also is dead inside, and even when it is altogether gone, the glad youthful branches growing green in the sunshine will scarcely find it out! This accounts for those oaks which time has hollowed without destroying, as those of Allonville in Normandy, in which mass is said, and which is moreover the greenest tree in the country. But without going so far, who has not seen those hollow old willows, sometimes pierced with holes letting in daylight, yet proudly crowned above by a forest of young boughs, as green and full of vigor as if the trunk were still in its prime? What was dead has departed, but all that has life in it remains, and that is enough for the tree.

Need I add that the descending sap, this steward of the vegetable, has also his workmen to supply with materials, as in our case, and that he is always falling in on his road with organs, all of which want different things from him? That here a flower has to be formed, there a fruit, there a leaf, or a bit of wood, and so on: and that a mysterious intelligence—the same that we have found everywhere else—presides over all these varied constructions, the materials for which are mixed together pell-mell, in the imperceptible thread of sap which oozes from the leaf to the bark? I recollect just as I am about to conclude, my dear child, that I once told you, you were a small temple in which God perpetually attests His presence, by a permanent miracle. You may now henceforth look upon a tree as something more than a bit of wood, yielding a pleasant shade. God is in it also.


And now, my dear little pupil, to what conclusion do we come from all this? To that which I announced to you from the first. Throughout the length and breadth of creation, from the highest to the lowest grade, every living thing is subject to the same law. Everything eats, and eats nearly in the same manner, since everywhere the same substances furnish the feast. I laid down in my first letter that our feeding machine was reproduced even to the farthest limits of the animal kingdom, though always becoming more simple as the species descends in the scale. And afterwards, where we began the study of animals, I told you that in this machine lay the uniformity of their construction. Was I not right? and what could I add to all the proofs which have developed themselves one after another, to establish the fact of this uniformity of plan in the animal machine, in all its essential points? And it will be to the lasting renown of the illustrious Geoffroy St. Hilaire that it was, in the face of all the Academies and under the fire of very learned indignation, he proclaimed this truth, which one cannot lose sight of without losing one's way in a crowd of arbitrary fancies.

I return, then, to the definition which I gave you in speaking of the worm, and which is the final word of the ideas I have been endeavoring to make you understand. An animal is a digestive tube served by organs.

In the first place it must eat, and for this therefore the Creator provided first. All the rest came afterwards in order to enable it to eat more readily, to secure its prey more easily, and to make the most of it when eaten. The movement machine, therefore, whose history I have promised you, is only an assistant, and not the principal feature of the organisation, and it is not by it, therefore, that the question can be decided, whether God has made three, four, or five animals, or whether he has only made one.

And now, my dear little pupil, I will bid you adieu, or rather say as the French do, "Au revoir," which means "Good-bye till we meet again," begging you to excuse any awkward expressions that may have escaped me, as also my having now and then talked about things because they have interested me, without perhaps sufficiently considering whether they might have an equal interest for you. Yet, while the pen is still in my hand, I will not leave you my concluding definition of an animal without adding a word of explanation. You know nothing about such matters yourself, but to some people my words might have the air of a parody upon another definition, applied by those grave gentlemen the Philosophers to man, whom they have denominated An intelligence served by organs. My definition is applicable only to the animal, and not to man, observe. Man in the natural, physical machinery of his body, is very decidedly an animal; yet as certainly is he, by the divine reflection which shines within him, something much more and greater; but what, is so far beyond the reach of definitionthat I shall not attempt to give you one. "Man," as Jesus Christ has said, "lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proccedeth out of the mouth of God." What it is that is nourished in us by that word, is precisely what I cannot attempt to define for you; yet I think you have understood my meaning.

Go, then, and eat your food in peace, like the pretty little animal that you are; but do not forget to nourish also the other part of your being; that indeed which is of the most importance, and which enables you to ascend to your Creator.



In going through the preceding pages (Part II) with a comparative anatomist, it became evident that some few popular and other errors and misconceptions had crept into this portion of M. Mace's usually clear and accurate work.

Naturally it was not in his power to verify all the statements he had to make on so many and such varied subjects, and he appears occasionally to have trusted to works of old-fashioned or doubtful authority.

In these cases I have considered it desirable to make such corrections as should secure the trustworthiness of the descriptions as far as they pretend to go.

It would not, however, have been in my power to accomplish this, but for the kind and efficient aid I have received from a scientific student of these subjects; and I am glad of this opportunity of acknowledging how much I am indebted to him for his assistance in making the necessary alterations, as well as for confirming the correctness of the greater portion of the work.


January, 1865. January, 1865.


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